My personal potty training method was honed early on with the oldest of my four children. It was a gorgeous day at the zoo. I had my newborn in the babybjorn, as my two year old hopped happily in and out of the stroller, to explore. My feeling of accomplishment at having gotten myself, and two tiny children dressed, fed, and out of the house, unraveled the moment my daughter announced “I have to go potty!” I can’t remember who the reckless individual was who had told me that at two years old I had to start potty training my daughter, but there I was, smack in the middle of the vast zoo, the nearest bathroom a ½ mile away. I already knew at this point that when a toddler tells you they have to go potty, you are moments away from being too late. I was never much of an athlete growing up, but if they had a category for sprinting mother with stroller and Bjorn, I would have won a medal on that day!
I ignored the stares as I ran and shouted in my motherese, “Just hold on sweetie, we’re almost there. Hold it in. Hold it in!” Trying to look cool and collected is one of the first things to go when you become a mother, so I didn’t care what anyone thought of my maniacal dash, as long as we made it to the bathroom in time. The smell of the public bathroom hit me as we squeezed through the door. I hastily tried to put toilet paper over the crusty seat with one hand, while I helped my daughter pull down her pants with the other, newborn baby dangling perilously above the toilet in the meantime. As I hoisted her onto the seat one of the strips of protective paper slipped in, her bare bottom resting on the filthy seat, but we had no time. When you are potty training they stress that you are not to rush the child, or raise your voice, lest you traumatize them, and destroy all progress, possibly ruining potty training for life. They never mention how traumatized you will be as you are crammed in a dirty toilet stall, newborn hanging upside-down in the babybjorn like a trapeze artist, as you lean over to hold your toddler from falling into a germ ridden, gaping grown up toilet. The fact that the baby is now screaming, and the toddler touches the toilet seat with her hands while you hold her in place, heightens the drama. Then you wait, because, sometimes you just have to patiently wait for them to go. It was there in that smelly germ infested bathroom, that I made my decision. The potty training ended. As traumatized as I was by that episode, six months later, I decided to try again. All of my friends were potty training their children by two and a half, and there seemed an urgent need by society that I should be too. My method was sealed by that second try, when my now crawling baby made his way over to the tiny full plastic potty on the floor. The one that I was helping my daughter get up from. He grabbed the lip of the bowl and splashed it over the rim, all over himself. In my apoplectic fit that followed, I decided then and there, that I would rather change a dirty diaper any day, on my own terms, in a clean, calm & safe environment, than suffer through the tribulations of potty training. From that moment on I never had to deal with mad sprints, wet spots on my new couch, a miniature toilet in the back of my car, or the multitude of daily clothing changes that I watched other mother’s go through. Although each of my kids had different time frames, in the end they never seemed to be too far behind their peers. When they did get out of diapers, emotionally and physically ready, they made the switch instantly, trauma free for all of us.
What do you think is the right age for potty training? Do you think there even is a “right” age, or do you think your child will let you know when he/she is ready? I’d love to hear your stories, tips, tricks and questions in our comment section below!